Tag Archive: DIY


The following is directly quoted from the “About Us” page on Dowser.  Nuff’ said, I think.  Subscribe to this website.

” Think of five problems facing the world.

Now think of five solutions.

If you found the first easier than the second, don’t worry. Everybody does.

We know much more about what’s broken than what’s being done to fix things.

We created Dowser to address this imbalance.

We’re living through a global social change renaissance. Millions of people are building organizations and social enterprises to attack problems using new ideas and models.

But most of this activity is hidden. The news is better at telling us what went wrong yesterday than what’s being done to make tomorrow better.

At Dowser, we present the world through a ‘solution frame,’ rather than a ‘problem frame.’ We’re interested in the practical and human elements of social innovation: Who’s solving what and how. We want to know how people come up with ideas, how they put them into practice, how they pay the bills, and what fuels their fire.

We don’t proselytize, provide feel good news, or celebrate a few heroes. We provide trustworthy news and provocative ideas with a discerning eye.

We’re open to any sector – nonprofit, business, government. And we’re interested in social innovators of any age in any field. We’ll be starting with stories in the U.S. and Canada. Later, we’ll expand globally.

Dowser is a place for anyone who cares about initiating positive change. We tell stories about people who are creatively attacking social problems. People who show how achievable it is to make an impact.

A dowser uses a divining rod to uncover water. We uncover stories of change.”

The Social Intrapreneur: a pdf of a report from the famed consulting firm SustainAbility. Note that my SNRE masters project adviser and Erb Institute Advisory Board member from Ford Motor Company, Dave Berdish, is featured in this report. Not at all surprising that he has made it into this report. Dave is PASSIONATE about human rights and has changed Ford as a result. If you want to dig deeper into his mindset check out this article he co-authored with Tom Gladwin, amazing Erb Director, prof, adviser,  about how MBA programs are failing to prepare business leaders for a morally complex future.

In many ways farmers are at the forefront of the movement toward sustainable change. They are the industry that has seen the most change in consumer behavior in the name of environmental stewardship. Note the amazing growth the farmer’s market segment of food retail in the last years. Maybe this is because food directly affects families’ health as well as the environment, local economies, and food security? Perhaps it is because the link between action and personal or environmental benefit is tangible and immediate? Rachel surely knows more than I do on these topics (specifically how many people have NOT made these connections and changed behaviors) so I’ll stop there.

We’ll have more posts about farmers, food, sustainable agriculture, etc as this is Rachel’s passion but I wanted to tell a quick story about farmers’ going beyond compliance with USDA organic guidelines and expectations of good behavior at a conference to “go green.”

Years ago, (2006?) I attended a session with some small farmers while at a giant conference the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture hosts annually. I was invited to this conference by the owners of Northstar Cafe, which you can find discussed in my first Small Infinity story., and found it to be highly relevant and inspiring. I saw both Sandra Steingraber and John Ikerd speak at this conference- more on those too soon as both of them remain on my list of influential thinkers.

Man do I digress…

The title of the session, something vague about connecting small farms to wind power, attracted enough participants to fill the room. The speaker, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly attracting the attention of the crowd. It turns out the crowd was filled with mostly farmers who wanted the speaker to enable action- steps, contacts, cost analysis, how-to stories- while the speaker was filled with lots of information on high-level policy of wind power on small farms. The tension of the mismatch was palpable.

By the end of the session, the audience was acting like a classroom of 4th grade girls during study hall. I saw people whispering and passing notes everywhere. From my spot in the midst of the farmers, I overheard people saying things like “here talk to these people” and noticed that the people “in the know” about HOW to get wind power on small farms were cranking out as many little notes as their pocket of crumpled receipts would permit.

Lesson: Small Infinities enable each and are open to opportunity beyond expectation.

I have a friend named Annie who I’ve known about a year now.  She is about my mom’s age, with a physical disability that occasionally confines her to a wheelchair and qualifies her to live in the subsidized senior housing high-rise in Ypsilanti, across the street from the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market (DYFM).

DYFM started in 2006, in response to the Washtenaw County Public Health Department’s designation of the south side of Ypsilanti as a “food desert”, with minimal access to sources of fresh food.  It was intended to provide a source of vegetables for the communities living in the area, allowing alternative payments like food stamps and Project FRESH vouchers, but for Annie it has been so much more.

Annie started volunteering in 2009 in the Ypsilanti Food Co-op booth at DYFM, where they run the Bridge Card machine to allow shoppers to exchange electronic food stamp benefits for wooden tokens to spend with the vendors.  This is when I met her; she was new to the area, and just thrilled to have a way to get involved and active, especially at this market right across the street from where she lived.  She worked at the market all season, stayed involved with the Ypsilanti Food Co-op throughout the winter, and in March, she launched “The Farmers Marketeers”.  She recruited a crew of several seniors, variously abled and aged, to create crafts, grow seedlings and vegetables on their apartment balconies, and (my favorite) stitch unique aprons and handbags out of repurposed thrift-store clothes.  They sell these wares at a cooperatively run booth at the market, which just started up again for the season on May 4, and they are adorable.

Someone (well, several someones) started that little market, and kept it going.  Annie started volunteering and followed her momentum from there.  Now the residents of that high-rise, who were before at high risk for isolation and poor health, have an opportunity to be physically and socially active, get out into the community, and earn a small amount of supplemental income.  And I got a cool apron.

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